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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  August 30, 2018 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

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them excited and fund raise. we saw the president earlier this week fundraising off of this alleged google bias. i think you will see more of it in the future. >> that is the bottom line. thank you so much. we should have more conversations about this. thank you for watching. jim sciutto is back in for jake tapper today. the lead starts now. thank you, brook. winter is coming for the president. one trump ally reportedly says -- president trump tweeting furiously with little regard for the truth, the day after news his white house counsel is on the way out with lot of answers. decades of dirt. a new report says president trump tried to buy and kill stories about old presidents women going back to the '80s. plus his way --
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♪ my way >> tears, final good byes, a few laughs and tributes as john mccain is remembered in his beloved arizona exactly how he wanted it to be. welcome to "the lead." president trump on a twitter tear ripping the russia investigation and insisting the white house council don mcgahn's exit has nothing to do with the russia probe yet it comes after he spoke to special counsel investigators voluntarily for more than 30 hours, the extent of which rattled the president, sources tell cnn. meanwhile, as the white house counsel is on his way out multiple sources tell cnn there is growing unease inside the west wing about what a democratic controlled house of representatives would mean for the president. the "washington post" reporting that trump's allies are worried the administration is unprepared for the coming legal roar.
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one ally saying winter is coming and nobody is prepared for war. cnn senior white house correspondent is in indiana where the president will be holding another rally tonight. jeff, the president indicating on twitter that he has made a decision on who will replace mcgahn? >> reporter: he did indicate that. he said he reached a decision. white house officials are less clear if it is a final decision or not. one leading contender for the next white house counsel is emmett flood who is currently overseeing the mueller investigation. that is one thing that is clear is that the president was tweeting so much, he did not hide the fact of what was on his mind. we'll see if he says that tonight. president trump airing a long list of grievances today, agitating about the departure of the top white house lawyer, a day after praising white house counsel don mcgahn -- >> excellent guy.
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>> reporter: the president suddenly turning defensive over why another top aid is heading for the exit. i like don but he was not responsible for me not firing bob mueller or jeff sessions referring to the special counsel leading the russia investigation and the embattled attorney general who recused himself from it. after acknowledging he didn't know what mcgahn had told mueller's team during testimony -- >> we do everything straight, we do everything by the book. don is an excellent guy -- >> reporter: he tweeted this, the rigged russia witch hunt did not come into play with respect to my decision on don mcgahn. the president making clear what was weighing on his mind today, responding to reports that his daughter and son-in-law wanted mcgahn want, the president saying they had nothing to do with the so-called pushing out of don mcgahn and blasting the
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media he added they love to portray chaos in the white house when they know chaos doesn't exist. that smooth running machine is under the microscope as the president hits the road for a campaign rally tonight in indiana where republicans are trying to pick up the senate seat. cnn has learned republican senators are privately pleading with the president to wait until after mid term elections to fire sessions, fearful of the political fallout. he is now openly dismissive of his attorney general's personality and accent reporting the president is complaining sessions, toualks like he has marbles in his mouth, harsh words for the senator to endorse trump's presidential bid. for now at least sessions is standing his ground, not answering questions about his future. >> explain why you are still on
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the job -- >> it's clear that president trump has had jeff sessions on his mind for so long. it is clear that he does not have a long shelf life in that position. the question is will he remain on through the mid term elections or not? we heard mitch mcconnell say he believes jeff sessions should stay in the position. others warn me of the fact that the president should do as he is told. who will the next attorney general be? will he confirm someone and will that person also recuse themselves or be in charge of the russia investigation? the russia investigation front and center still in the president's mind. >> we know what the president would want in terms of that investigation. thank you to jeff zeleny. the president busy on twitter. one of the most revealing is his comments on don mcgahn. the president said the rigged russia witch hunt did not come
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into play even a little bit with respect to my decision on don mcgahn. do you buy that? >> i find this president has a tendency to project what he is worried people are thinking in these. i don't see how it wasn't a factor. there had been grumbling that he was unhappy with him. now he is going out weeks after this came out and says it wasn't their idea. i don't know how much we were talking about that before that. i find it hard to not infer that this is what he is concerned is the truth and that we might -- >> my decision -- it was well known around town that when mcgamcg mcgahn was going to leave after the kavanagh confirmation. i think before the rubber hit the road in terms of sessions
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and the mueller report -- this is mcgahn's choice. trump can't stand the idea that a grown man has chosen to resign after two years which is a perfectly normal span of office. trump has to be the one in charge. it has to be his decision to fire mcgahn. >> the white house was confronted and said the president just confirmed that he fired don mcgahn. i said it was his decision to announce that he was leaving via twitter. >> that is a courtesy. it really seems like looking at these tweets that he was reacting to the stories that came out, one of which i can't remember if it was the post or the times saying that ivanka and jared kushner were unhappy with don mcgahn. there wasn't really a timeline. we knew he was leaving. we didn't know when.
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it seems like it had to do with how don mcgahn sat down with mueller for 30 hours. it seems like that -- if we are putting the pieces together he was either being told of the news or was watching it on the cable and live tweeting which is weird when you not watching the same thing. >> here is what the president said that they had nothing to do with the so-called pushing out of don mcgahn. cnn is reporting that when it was learned that don mcgahn sat down with special prosecutors that the president was not happy with that. can we presume that that was part of the calculation here? >> i think there is a thread line that runs through a lot of tweets in trump's commentary and it has to do with the possible obstruction of justice case. don mcgahn was privy to a lot of events that circle around obstruction of justice issues
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regarding trump pressuring james comey to drop the case. the list goes on and on but goes back to the question. if trump is really sitting down with lawyers and advisers and talking about the possibility of impeachment, an obstruction of justice case is clearly going to be much stronger possibly than a conspiracy case because we can see all that play out. and the fact that don mcgahn sat down for 30 hours has to be nagging him. >> it is worth connecting the statements today with what is clearly a pattern with the president which is to attack the credibility of witnesses and evidence in this investigation. james comey was in the room when he was fired and when he made the requests regarding michael flynn. he has been attacking james comby for a year. he went so far as to claim what he told lester holt about firing james comey although we saw it on video tape, somehow claimed
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that was made up. is this not part of his strategy as opposed to just letting loose as he gets angry? >> it's a jury tampering on a grand scale. taking the manafort case, he did get one juror to not convict on ten counts. let's talk about the american public as a whole and the house and senate as a hole and the republican party, he wants to sell enough doubts, attack the prosecutors in an o.j. type way that enough of his supporters can rationalize. he is giving up on persuading anyone who isn't on his team but trying to get the team to stick with him. >> some of this is just a bandwidth issue. he understands he is the president. when he tweets out you have to report on it. if he can burn up conversation by putting this out there he is
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taking up time on what can be focussed on what he has done wrong. this is what is so hard in the news business nowadays is how do you get it all in there? >> giuliani is also echoing this. he spoke to the daily beast this afternoon and is putting together his own report to counter the mueller investigation. it is basically what this thing is going to do, it is aimed at discrediting what they think might be in the report. it is a lot of publically available information that will be in the document that hasn't been released but aimed solely at discrediting the mueller investigation. >> what does this remind you of? the g.o.p. memo. grab as much as you can of the public sphere really and make them skeptical and call it a victory. >> the challenges for reasonable people and us in the news and commentary business is to focus on the original source. we all saw the tape of donald trump speaking with lester holt. the tape spoke for itself.
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this is a prime example of how he gas lights people. look at the tapes. his gas lighting of comey, the entire national security complex has been amazing. >> we have a lot more to talk specifically on that. coming up president trump said on tape that he had russia on his mind when he fired former fbi james comey. now he is saying that the tape was fudged somehow. where is the evidence for that claim? is there evidence? inquiring minds want to know, what are all the dirty secrets? a report claims president trump tried to buy from a checkout aisle tabloid. -omar, look. [ thunder rumbles ]
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caught fudging my tape on russia they were hurt badly. no one was caught fudging anything and no one was hurt badly and the tape speaks for itself. here is what nbc aired on may 11, 2017, two days after the president fired fbi director james comey. >> regardless of recommendation, i was going to fire comey knowing there was no good time to do it. and in fact when i decided to just do it i said to myself, i said, you know, this russia thing with trump and russia is a made up story. it's an excuse by the democrats for having lost an election. >> that is what the president said on tape. the public has been seeing this tape for 15 months now. what is the president trying to do here? is he trying to claim that that didn't happen or that it was edited somehow? >> i'm struck that he raised the lester holt interview.
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they have heard something at the white house that makes them worry that the obstruction of justice case is further along perhaps than we realize. maybe somebody else flipped. maybe they have information. they told the president they don't need to have an interview with him. whatever. why was lester holt on his mind? somebody realizes this is part of a pattern of obstruction. >> he tried to do that with the access hollywood tape. he was telling people he didn't think it was him. >> he told a senator that wasn't my voice. you talk about gas lighting. >> what is really interesting about this clip that we forget
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is that this is trump trying to clean up another big lie because they floated to the world that he fired james comey because of poor treatment of hillary clinton during the campaign. >> trump was very upset about that. >> it seemed like this is true. all of his aides said it is because we are protecting hillary and then he says it was about russia. >> remember who drafted the memo. here is another thing about this tape. i want your thoughts on this. the president's own lawyer, rudy giuliani, has constantly referred to the lester holt interview as evidence for his own arguments. have a listen. >> i can right now give you the answer that he is going to give to the question, why did you fire james comey? he gave it to lester holt on tape. >> he said that to lester holt when he was interviewed within days of doing it. you have a contemporaneous statement of his intent.
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how is that obstruction? >> that is the president's lawyer saying that the president said this on this tape. the explanation is that rudy giuliani i think was making the case that he doesn't have to answer this question to the special counsel because he has already said it on tape, treating that tape as a fact and not as fudged. who believes him is my question? >> keep in mind, rudy giuliani said the truth isn't the truth. it is interesting in a lot of interviews one of his tactics has been to say it was all out in the open sort of implying he is not hiding anything. it can only be bad if he is hiding it. this is part of what is such a problem with donald trump. he does these things. he has no shame about it and moves on with his day. it seems to be a rhetorical tool. i don't think there is a coordinated legal strategy here at all. people are bemoaning the loss of
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legal capacity within the white house. >> it is one thing with rudy giuliani. he talks about how he was with donald trump during the campaign. i think there is a good chance he goes from being president trump's lawyer to a witness to this case. he has gargled things so badly and claims to have a first-hand account of all of these er experiences. >> you wouldn't be one of the first of trump's lawyers. michael cohen is after his guilty plea. i just want to remind folks that we talked about the access hollywood tape. there is another instance where the president tried to discredit evidence that the whole world saw. you may remember his meeting in russia in helsinki. that is the access hollywood tape. this is following the meeting with vladimir putin in helsinki after which the president said it was something about a
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misspoken word on a transcript to explain everything. have a listen. >> i came back and i said what is going on? what is the big deal? so i have a transcript. i went out and reviewed a clip. it should have been obvious. i thought it would be obvious. in a key sentence in my remarks i said the word "would" instead of "wouldn't". >> if we took you back to helsinki, multiple times he raised questions about the u.s. intelligence assessment about russia's interference in the election. the president tries to wipe that away by saying in one of the sentences i should have added the contraction at the end. it is part of a pattern. >> is that part of your book? >> i take your point that their legal strategy hasn't been supercoordinated. i think at key times he stopped
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trump from doing things that would be rash and self damaging. i am struck that both senator mcconnell put out the statement praising mcgahn and then tweeted something i hope he is not going. i think some have insight into the white house are nervous -- it's each of the people that are something of a check on trump and one by one they are departing. >> how much would they depend on people like don mcgahn to be the guard rail? once this blows apart is somebody going to do something? the president lies and lies to this obscene form and everybody expects somebody else to do something to stop it. >> more convenient for somebody else to jump in the line of fire. >> he was working very closely with them because it doesn't
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seem like anyone really has any control on what the president does in some of his more rash -- >> he hasn't fired sessions. i think there were moments when they wanted to do that. there has been good reporting. i agree they are happy with his work. >> mcgahn is gone and now some republicans are opening the door to fire sessions. a new report claiming that donald trump was so concerned about the dirt that one popular tabloid had on him going back to the 1980s that he tried to buy all of it. what could be in those files? today, 97% of employers agree that skills like teamwork, attention to detail, and customer service are critical to business success. the kind of skills, that work for you.
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. we are back now with our politics lead. president trump was so concerned about potentially damaging stories coming out before the 2016 election that he and his long-time attorney michael cohen plan to buy and bury all the dirt that the national inquirer had collected on him dating back decades according to a bombshell story in the "new york times" and the two men could apparently be heard on tape discussing a potential payout. some of this dirt on trump pre-dates cohen joining the trump organization. >> all the way back to the '80s according to that times report. it gives you a sense of the relationship trump had with david pecker who ran the
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national enquirer who would by the stories and make sure they didn't see the light of day. it shows you trump's mindset how he worked to control negative information about himself long before he became president. the "new york times" reporting that donald trump and his former personal attorney michael cohen once discussed a plan to buy all stories the national enquirer had collected on trump. a discussion was strongly hinted at in a secret audio recording released exclusively to cnn by his lawyers in july. >> it is all the stuff. >> reporter: on that tape trump and cohen heard discussing setting up a payment system through american media inc. >> i need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, david. >> reporter: david is david pecker, the head of a.m.i. pecker had a cozy relationship
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with trump and to protect him pecker would dig up the dirt on trump, often paying for the stories and burying them in a practice called catch and kill. according to the "new york times" that safe contained decades of material on trump like marital woes and lawsuits, lists of sensitive sources and tips about alleged affairs. cohen and trump even discussed a backup plan just in case pecker, the holder of the secrets, was no longer around. >> it's all the stuff because you never know when the company -- >> trump and cohen mention trump organization cfo in their plans to pay for the information. >> i have spoken to allen about how to set the whole thing up with funding. >> reporter: the times report said trump never did by the stories from a.m.i. but in his guilty plea cohen admitted to
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working to buy the silence of stormy daniels and karen mcdugal, who women who alleged affairs with trump. both pecker and weisselberg helped the case in exchange for immunity. it is unclear what other secrets they may be sharing with federal prosecutors. it is unclear if attorneys in the special counsel had interest in this trove of other negative trump stories that have not yet been reported. we reached out to a.m.i. and they declined to comment. let's play this section of the tape where cohen is secretly recording trump and the discussion about buying dirt. have a listen. >> it's all the stuff because you never know when the company -- >> he gets hit by a truck -- >> i'm all over that.
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>> all over that, all the stuff. we have the tapes. with the "new york times" story it seems to explain what they were talking about there. that would seem to indicate that they were concerned about the kind of material in there. >> who has a better conversation with his fixer than buying up -- 30 years of some tabloid. what can you say? i think it gets to the fact that he has been doing this for a long time and misbehaving and covering it up and paying off people hush money. i have always thought he was so upset about the mueller investigation. once mueller got going and turned over this rock god knows what you would find in terms of financial dealings, personal li life. now as far of an investigation
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with the president it becomes a little more serious. >> i think this is why the cfo of the trump organization getting immunity for the cohen investigation attracted so much attention because this is someone who worked for frank trump, president trump's father. he is in charge of that company's finances and presumably that is where a lot of the money was coming from, personal and the company's finances. >> and the fact that they continue to do this in 2016 which raises a whole heck of a lot of different issues than if you are in 2009 and you don't want an embarrassing story to come out. >> that is the essence of what michael cohen has pleaded guilty to is making payments for the express purpose of keeping them from coming out before the election which would indicate using money to influence the election. if you are doing that for all the dirt that the national
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enquirer collected would that not be in the same category? >> here is what makes the whole thing so perilous for trump. he was a candidate who broke the rules. you get in trouble eventually. they put no fire walls between the trump campaign, trump organization, trump charity or the family. now you have the national enquirer. i don't know how it survives this or how the trump organization survives this. once you get in there there are supposed to be fire walls between all entities. there are supposed to be certain ways you interact with media. this is all mingled together in one big mess. the fact that the cfo has immunity and david pecker has immunity should tell you that they have something big to give up. >> i think what it gets to is with the cfo on the hook this business is largely built on some illegal behavior, money laundering, so on. what i continue to wonder is if
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some of what we are looking at now is almost a side show, the women, covering it up, even the conversations with russia. if there is anything i take away is it is trump is in close contact with his people. no way he didn't know about the conversations with russia. at the end of the day what he will protect over everything else is the money and the organization. i continue to think that is ultimately what will take him down. >> are we overestimating the importance of cfo of trump organization and pecker getting immunity? can we exaggerate the importance of that? is that sort of standard procedure? does that indicate that they have something to give? you get immunity because you might be exposed for committing crimes. is there a there there? >> some lawyers when it was announced maybe they were just offering up on cohen and wanted to wrap up the case tight they
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might have needed their testimony if cohen hadn't ended up pleading. it seems that that investigation is about where michael cohen goes. i suspect they can ask him about anything. for me it does come back to 2016 and the russia question. when you see the pattern of how he ran with it and how everything was run all the claims about collusion for me become more credible, the claims that trump must have known, that the meeting -- >> suddenly the tape comes out, access hollywood which was the most dangerous moment for trump. >> roger stone said he was in
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contact contact with asaunsange before said he wasn't. to me that evidence is out there. i think the other piece is with russia potential collusion on the election and the finances could potentially be intertwined. the cfo will have knowledge about relationships with russian oligarchs who were potentially a source of finance for the organization who might have also been part of whatever russia was doing. >> the heart of the question was set aside the salacious tape allegation and more focussed on the potential for financial exposu exposure. these are folks who know about it. >> i go back. this is about protecting since everything was so intermingled i think this is about protecting the family business. remember, trump was asked in some interview whether this started getting into personal
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finances would that be a bridge too far. he said yeah. the line has been crossed. the mid term elections could emboldin or not this president. i think if he makes moves it will likely be laback -- >> maybe it was just the national enquirer the whole time. stick around. there is more to talk about. the president has made his disdain for jeff sessions well known. a new report says the president resents sessions for more than just his recusal from the russia investigation including something as simple as how he talks. are we there yet? you don't always use your smartphone for directions... hey guys, up there. ...or to laugh out loud. ♪ but when it matters most, you count on tracfone to keep you connected for less. ♪
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welcome back. president trump has just commented on the future of attorney general jeff sessions. sessions job is safe at least until the mid term elections as bloomberg reported. president trump telling bloomberg i just would love to have him do a great job. when the president was asked if he would keep sessions beyond november he declined to comment. not exactly a ringing endorsement for the sitting attorney general. >> if your boss is like i won't fire you for two months. seriously, jeff sessions actually has executed a lot of president trump's agenda. he actually has been doing, if you are looking at some of the things he cares about with immigration and judges, that has been getting done. so the president will never
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forgive jeff sessions for someone called it the original sin of recusing himself from the russia investigation. >> the president has been made clear when he says i love him to do a good job means keep control of the russia investigation. the president has been public about that. >> he can try to nominate someone to replace sessions. i'm not sure the senate would confirm. maybe he will try to let -- if he doesn't replace him rosenstein steps up. he is the deputy attorney general. i think one plan they have is slide in someone else who has also been confirmed by the senate in another position in the administration. that is easier to do if it is a
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retirement. it is designed originally for a death or emergency. maybe he is still hoping he can persuade sessions to retire and slide a loyalist in. you would have a real constitutional crisis at that point. i guess he is kicking the can to november. he is just putting off a constitutional crisis, i think. >> you said something that made me think of the reason why republican senators had turned on jeff sessions. if he leaves and they appoint someone else it is probably easier to get a new nominee to make a pledge to not interfere than pass legislation to protect mueller. >> i think the other danger is who will take this job and who will trump trust? it feels like anybody he puts forward will be compromised by this investigation somehow. you have a democratic house of representatives with subpoena power to investigate. from my mind it is better for
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him to keep sessions. i think this is going to get worse for him. >> you used the term constitutional crisis. that phrase has been uttered a number of times and warned about on a number of things. in this environment would it really be received that way? the president has shirked constitutional responsibility and broken norms without consequences. >> i think the mueller investigation has been left alone. rosenstein has been allowed to coordinate in an impressive way. for me that would be the bridge -- interfering in that i think would be a different level of norm breaking. >> it feels like at some point this is going to the supreme court at some point. that would be very telling to see how that decision is made. >> politico detailed ways in
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which the president has specifically complained about sessions. if sessions' recusing was his original sin trump has come to resent him for other reasons griping the attorney doesn't have the pedigree and can't stand his southern accent. and he talks like he has marbles in his mouth, the president has told aides. you have on the list a lot of things that are constant issues for the president. one is loyalty. >> whether or not he did it. >> so i really do think everything sessions does annoys him and it began from the moment he recused himself. >> none of it matters.
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trump picked him. his accent doesn't matter. trump put him there. >> the other thing is if i were a house candidate i would be out saying can you believe the president said this? either the people who those remarks offend presumably won't get offended. >> one of the issues in the election should we have a congress that is something worth a check on the president. i think all of this talk about sessions hurts trump a little. you can be somewhat okay with some of trump's policies but nervous that a re-elected republican congress will allow trump to be more unchecked. i think there is a little bit of help for democrats here. >> we have covered a lot. we have a somber story coming up. the final trip to washington, d.c. john mccain's beloved state of arizona saying a heart felt good bye to the senator as the nation's capitol prepares to
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senator john mccain making his final trip to washington. he will be just the 31st american to lie in state in the u.s. capitol, an honor only held for the country's most highly regarded and respected government officials including
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presidents. i know you have been in the midst of this for the last couple of days. arizona saying good bye to a favorite adopted son. >> reporter: absolutely. you know, mccain sat on his porch overlooking the creek and the si the trees and planned this send off. the ceremony we saw today was as much about talking about mccain as sending a slew of messages about what he felt this country should and could be. signs and flags planted on the motorcade route, an organic show of appreciation for the man who represented them for decades. but the man they call senator, mccain's family calls husband and dad. ♪ amazing grace >> reporter: the emotion palpable.
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>> to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. >> reporter: john mccain's friends came with classic stories of a man with an unparalleled sense of humor. >> he says with a big smile on his face, watch out when you start your car. >> reporter: grant woods talking about his first day as mccain's chief of staff back in the house. >> all of the staff came out and were waving at things. they seem to be very nice. he says you will have to fire half of them. i said what are you talking about. he just sped off and staff was waving. about one minute later we went right back by because he had gone the wrong way. >> reporter: the people he chose to speak showed the depth and diversity of his friendships. >> i'm black. he was white.
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i'm young. he wasn't so young. he ran for president. i run out of bounds. >> my name is joe biden. i'm a democrat. >> reporter: of course, reminders of his willingness always to reach across party lines to get things done. >> we both went to our caucus and we were approached by our caucus leaders with the same thing raised as a discussion. joe, it doesn't look good you sitting next to john all the time. same thing was said to john in your caucus. that's when things began to change for the worst in america in the senate. >> reporter: long time senate colleague joe biden who lost his oldest son beau to the same rare form of brain cancer that took mccain's life delivering a
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moving tribute. >> i always thought of john as a brother. we had a hell of a lot of family fights. all politics is all about trust. i trusted john with my life. >> reporter: biden making this promise to mccain's family as they mourn. >> you are going to ride by that field or smell that fragrance or see that flashing image and you are going to feel like you did the day you got the news. you know you will make it. i give you my word, i promise you. this i know. that day will come. >> reporter: after the ceremony john mccain's family escorted him with the motorcade to the airport to get on the plane and go with him for the last time from arizona to washington, the family along with the senator's
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remains are on the flight. when they land we are told that they will be at joint base andrews greeted by nearly 100 members of his staff and former staff. you cover washington. you know it takes a certain kind of senator to have that kind of a loyal staff and joked that the mccain staff is like the hotel california. you can check in but you never leave. >> this is really only the beginning of events honoring him. you have the lying in state at the capitol and a major funeral or ceremony here in washington, as well. >> reporter: right. as you mentioned he will be lying in state in the u.s. capitol. it is a very, very rare honor to be able to do that usually for presidents, former presidents and members of the body in the senate was so important to john mccain. he ran twice for a different office, didn't get it. he realized how incredibly
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important it could be and will be to use the senate to help make policy in the country and around the world. i will tell you that mike pence, the vice president, is going to be the highest ranking member of the trump administration to attend an event and that will be tomorrow. >> special moment for the country. our coverage continues right now with wolf blitzer in the situation room. happening now, breaking news, safe for now. questions swirl about the fate of the attorney general president trump says that jeff sessions is safe for now at least until after the mid term elections. trump unleashed in a twitter tira tirade, president trump unleashes and attacks news networks, books and google. the president denies and confirms the firing of his white house counsel. is he creating his own version of reality? catch and kill. donald trump reportedly